A Chinese cave links climate change, social impacts, and human adaptation over the last 500 years

Liangcheng Tan, Yanjun Cai, Zhisheng An, Hai Cheng, Chuan-Chou Shen, Sebastian Breitenbach, Yongli Gao, R. Lawrence Edwards, Haiwei Zhang, Yajuan Du

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36 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

The collapse of some pre-historical and historical cultures, including Chinese dynasties were presumably linked to widespread droughts, on the basis of synchronicities of societal crises and proxy-based climate events. Here, we present a comparison of ancient inscriptions in Dayu Cave from Qinling Mountains, central China, which described accurate times and detailed impacts of seven drought events during the period of 1520–1920 CE, with high-resolution speleothem records from the same cave. The comparable results provide unique and robust tests on relationships among speleothem δ18O changes, drought events, and societal unrest. With direct historical evidences, our results suggest that droughts and even modest events interrupting otherwise wet intervals can cause serious social crises. Modeling results of speleothem δ18O series suggest that future precipitation in central China may be below the average of the past 500 years. As Qinling Mountain is the main recharge area of two large water transfer projects and habitats of many endangered species, it is imperative to explore an adaptive strategy for the decline in precipitation and/or drought events.
Original languageEnglish
Article number12284
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Volume5
Issue number1
Early online date13 Aug 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes

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